USEF/CACCHIONE CUP AND WESTERN DIVISIONS FEATURED SECOND DAY OF IHSA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

 Mollie Kowalchik from Mount Holyoke aboard Collins, owned by Cazenovia College. Photo by  alcookphoto.com

Mollie Kowalchik from Mount Holyoke aboard Collins, owned by Cazenovia College. Photo by alcookphoto.com

Harrisburg, Penn.—May 4, 2018 —The 2018 Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) National Championship Horse Show resumed for the second day of action at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The first two phases of the coveted USEF/Cacchione Cup, the Equitation Over Fences and the Equitation on the Flat took place. The Western riders and horses also began competition, featuring AQHA Team Open Reining and Individual Open Western Horsemanship. All teams participated in the colorful Parade of Teams

Kowalchik Leads the USEF/Cacchione Cup First Two Phases
In the USEF/Cacchione Cup Equitation Over Fences, Mollie Kowalchik, the captain of the Mount Holyoke College team, produced the leading round aboard Collins, owned by Cazenovia College.
 
“I just love that horse Collins,” said C.J. Law, head coach at Mount Holyoke. “I’ve known about him for a while and when she drew him I was so pleased.”

 Halle Kutsche from Kansas State University and Gunner, owned by the US Military Academy. Photo by  alcookphoto.com

Halle Kutsche from Kansas State University and Gunner, owned by the US Military Academy.
Photo by alcookphoto.com

Law shared that Kowalchik is such a petite rider that it can be challenging. “Many times, we have to wrap the stirrups as many as three times,” she said. “When she got on she said, ‘CJ I’ve already gone up 10 holes.’ We only had six holes left!”
 
As it turned out, Kowalchik had enough holes in the stirrup leathers to make them the perfect length and Law said she and Collins made for an elegant pair. “It was a good round— a very organized ride,” Law said.
 
The judges agreed.

Going into the flat phase, Kowalchik was two points ahead of the pack with Halle Kutsche from Kansas State University in second. Both riders maintained their positions after the flat phase with only one point separating their scores. The top 10 riders will return for the work-off phase Saturday morning.
 
“I’m going to try to be confident because now I know I have it in me,” said Kowalchik, a senior from Loveland, Ohio, studying exercise science. “I’m going to enjoy it because it is my last ride in the IHSA, as an undergrad. It will be an emotional day, but I’m excited.”

University of Wisconsin River Falls Notches First Win in AQHA Team Open Reining
Danielle Paulson from the University of Wisconsin River Falls has been on the team for two years and qualified for Nationals for the first time this year.
 
“Last year I had a rough go at Semi-Finals and making it back to Nationals this year was an incredible opportunity,” said Paulson, who is from Rochester, Minnesota.
 
While watching the warmup, she spied Juice, a cute chestnut mare owned by Andrew Wolf.
 

 Danielle Paulson from University of Wisconsin River Falls slides to a stop with Juice, owned by Andrew Wolf Photo by  alcookphoto.com

Danielle Paulson from University of Wisconsin River Falls slides to a stop with Juice,
owned by Andrew Wolf Photo by alcookphoto.com

“I liked Juice when I saw her warming up. I thought, ‘I want to draw her!’ I ended up drawing her! I was really excited and I asked her owner for tips. I went in the ring and just let her take care of me. I pushed her to go how I thought she could run and she circled really nice for me. Her spins were great, her stops were awesome. She was a heck of a mare to ride.”
 
Though Paulson has shown American Quarter Horses for 10 years, this is her first year competing in reining.
 
“My coach Janie Huot is awesome,” she said. “She has always been there for me. All I’ve done is practice on reining horses at my school. It’s a huge accomplishment.”
 
Paulson will also compete in NRHA Individual Open Reining and AQHA High Point Western Rider.

 Codi Uecker chats with friends after her win. Photo by EQ Media

Codi Uecker chats with friends after her win. Photo by EQ Media

Individual Open Western Horsemanship
The third time is a charm for Codi Uecker from Rocky Mountain College who piloted Terrell, owned by the University of Findlay to the win in the Individual Open Western Horsemanship. Uecker hails from Lewistown, Montana, and is a junior studying biology. She has qualified and competed at Nationals every year of her college career.
 
“I’m so excited,” said Uecker. It’s taken three years, so it’s good.”

IHSA Members Giving Back
IHSA members actively give back in a variety of ways. Many teams have fundraising projects and some align with worthy nonprofits to volunteer and raise funds. For instance, the Centenary University equestrian team just completed a fundraising project for the Equestrian Aid Foundation and University of British Columbia fundraises for JustWorld International.
 
There are some outstanding IHSA members that quietly give back. Kelsi Okun is a 20-year-old sophomore at Stanford University from McLean, Virginia. She is studying symbolic systems with plans for a career on the business side of tech. Okun qualified to compete in the USEF/Cacchione Cup at Nationals. That alone is impressive.

 Kelsi Okun third from the right with her teammates and coach Vanessa Bartsch. Photo courtesy of Stanford University

Kelsi Okun third from the right with her teammates and coach Vanessa Bartsch. Photo courtesy of Stanford University

But when Okun was 8 years old, she and her 10-year-old sister Rachel founded ThanksUSA, an organization that that gives away $3,000 scholarships to family members of the military. Since its founding, ThanksUSA has awarded $13 million in scholarships.

“It was started around our kitchen table,” Okun said. “Now it has its own employees and its own operating unit, but at its heart, it is really a family foundation. It’s something I’ve grown up with my whole life.”
 
The Okun sisters were inspired by their neighbors, the Wards who had a daughter their age. The father had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
“That was our first exposure to a military family because I wasn’t a military brat myself,” Okun said. “There was a disconnect that we noticed between the quality of education that would be accessible. I was in second grade and it was apparent. As two schoolgirls growing up—the only thing we knew was school. It was the best way we knew to give back. People were very kind and it snowballed into what it is today.”

For more information go to thanksusa.org

 Photos by Lisa Giris

Photos by Lisa Giris